Sunday, 10 April 2016

Where's Dumine Marie, the French Nationality Bride?

An Ode to Dumine-Marie

Are you sure she has French nationality, Nico?
Or she's just a Pondicherrian like me?

I'm sure, Selvam, yes!
She was born in Marseille.

Then I am ready to join her French class again.
Spending 6000 Rupees
Just to be with her again Nico,

Back again Level 1,
Two hours a day,
Five days a week,
For two whole months Nico.

But why Selvam Why?

To make her fall in love with me Nico.
I can't afford dowry for French nationality brides
And I can't afford commission for Tamil brokers,
But I can afford French class fees,
For my Dumine- Marie.... Nico,

In just 6000 rupees,
I'll make her fall in love with me

I'll sing songs of Florent Pagny,
And I'll make charts and posters,
I'll be the first to answer all questions.
And I'll send fruits to her mother.

There's no dowry in Love,
So I'll make her love me Nico

She has French passport,
But no brothers and sisters,
Dead French military father,
But very old mother.
Good character and morals,
But slim body,
Hidden in loose salwar kameez,
She's tempts no man, Nico!
I appreciate her loose clothing

Yes Selvam..

Hey Nico, tell me about her past?
Does she have a past?

How dare Selvam!

But you're her friend Nico!
Surely you'll talk
Does she go out in evenings?
With friends?
With girls?
With boys?
You are her only friend right Nico?

Because my father has said,
'Never marry a woman
 with many friends'
Not even female friends, Nico
They're a dangerous influence Maa.

Oh Selvam!

What's her age Nico?
What 33!
And I'm just 28
But no problem Nico,
She's still fertile,
And so Prestigious,

I'll take her with pride
To my office parties.
'Meet my wife', I'll say,
'French national and French Prof!'

You're too much Selvam!

And she lives in the White Town,
Right Nico?
In a three-storey house?
Hey are you sure it's an ownership house
 .. and not rented?

I'm sure but why Selvam?

So I'll stay with her on the ground floor,
Put my parents on 1st floor,
And 2nd floor for French tourists,
Only white ones, Maa,
Collect 40,000 rent a month!

I'll get the nationality,
I'll move to France, Nico
I'll get the dole,
And I won't work Nico,

I'll bring my parents
My sister,
Her children,
My brother,
His wife,

We'll all stay in France, Paris,
Hey don't make that face Nico
In France anything is possible

Sure Selvam. Vive la France!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

How to Gift a Buddha (and Ganesh, Shiva & Krishna) in Pondicherry

                                     This Buddha below costs just Rs 1000 
                                     (11.80 Euro)
                                  (16.40 US Dollars)

We did not believe the shop lady Vimla when she told us the price, Rs 1000! Did she mean 10,000?
But it was true. Almost everything in her shop was so lowly priced that I asked her how it was possible. She said that since hers was not an elegant boutique with air conditioning and spot lighting, she could not demand 7000 or 8000 Rs! It was just a stall by the side of the road where Western tourists almost never stopped.

And she was right because most of my expat friends in Pondy who've lived here for years have not noticed this shop. When you enter, you will see that she stocks some phantastic masks :

  • (African style, 
  • tribal adivasi style, 
  • kathakali style 
  • and of course the Gods of the Hindu pantheon)

Most statues are built from clay/mud and then given a bronzed rustic finish. Not too gold but just rightly dusted. I have added pictures and descriptions and approximate prices of some products. Vimala had no problems with the prices being openly mentioned..

Now you can make sure that the artisan and the immediate seller benefits most from your money!
The address is:
Shop No. 3, Gingee Salai + rue Marine cutting
Opposite Auroshikha Boutique
(5 minutes from Shri Aurobindo Ashram)

Map provided at the end.



Rs. 500 a pair. .. RAJASTHANI FULL STATUE.   15" LENGTH

Rs. 200  ..  WOODEN GANESHA ..  8" WIDTH


Rs. 200 ...  KATHAKALI PINK MASK  ... 14" LENGTH

Rs. 500 a pair . ADIVASI TRIBAL COUPLE ..   20" LENGTH


Rs. 400  ..  KRISHNA WITH COW .. 10" WIDTH




RS 250  ... GANESH 


Brut Mask (in Raw form without gold bronze dust)


Everybody's having a  good time. And we, we are acting like it's the End of the World (u2)


Rs 400 a pair. LONG  MASK

                                          DIRECTIONS TO REACH VIMLA'S SHOP


Saturday, 11 January 2014

Iron Curtains for Glass Ticket Windows?

In late December last year, we went to Big Cinemas in Pondicherry to watch 'Dhoom 3'. I looked hard for the ticket window (the regular glass ticket window one normally sees at cinemas), but none was to be found except for a red iron curtain of a window where people had already queued up. It soon became apparent that these guys were successfully purchasing tickets from behind that iron curtain!

A closer look revealed that this was indeed the functional Ticket Window. There was just a circular opening wired in mesh from which patrons could communicate with the counter guy. Unbelievable! I should have known that security was the most obvious reason but still asked a few people around what this was all about. They seemed mildly amused at my ignorance and explained that the cinemas in Pondy can't afford glass ticket windows because fans smash them in a frenzy if the shows are sold out. In order to protect property as well as the ticket counter guys from the brunt of this cinematic rage, solid iron came to replace clear glass.

My friend Bagalavan Perier who worked on the sets of 'Life of Pi' with Ang Lee gave me useful insights into the collective consciousness of Tamil audiences and their passion for cinema. About the ticket window, he said 'Oh, this exists not just in Pondy but all over Tamil Nadu and most of the South Indian theaters except for those in malls. Just go watch a Tamil film especially one starring Rajni, Kamal, Vijay or Ajit. First day, first show -- you won't be able to hear the dialog as people scream throughout. Some times fans will tear apart the screen if the operator won't play the song they like again.'

He continued, 'Over here fans are crazy that's why chief ministers are always related with cinema. MGR was a Tamil hero, Jayalalitha (current chief minister) was a heroine. Karunanidhi was a script writer who holds the name for changing the trend of Tamil cinema. People have been requesting Rajnikant (actor) to enter politics since 1980. Just because of his support, Karunanidhi became the Chief Minister in 1996. When Kamal Haasan's controversial film 'Vishwaroopam' was banned in Tamil Nadu, we willingly went to the neighboring states of Kerala and Andhra Pradesh to watch the movie!'

Vishwaroopam Poster

What about women in southern cinema?


I asked if Shobana, an acclaimed actress and danseuse who runs a Bharatnatyam school in Chennai would enter politics. Baglu replied, 'No, she won't because she is from Kerala. Kerala people are clever, they treat actors as actors unless he or she is worth their support. In Tamil Nadu it is different. You have male fans performing abhisegam (worship) to posters of film stars by squirting milk on them, or beer. In Pondicherry, they even smash the beer bottles after!'

Fans Pour Milk on a Kamal Hassan Poster

Do Tamil actresses enjoy this love too?

Apparently yes! Some fans constructed a temple for Kushboo and Namitha. On reading this article, this is what Namitha had to say about her temple, 'I am both thrilled and scared because I find a temple built in honour of a living person - especially me - a little difficult to come to terms with.'

Just before my jaw couldn't drop further, Bagalavan trailed off, 'In the South of India, not just the actors but even directors, music directors and cinematographers are worshiped. We have fan clubs for technicians too. Antony and Lenin in editing, Ilayaraja in music, Sandosh Sivan in cinematography, Rasul in audio editing ....'


Thanks to Bagalavan.
Shobana's pic courtesy her official site.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Watching Dhoom 3 in Tamil (in Pondicherry)

Dhoom 3 Poster in Pondicherry

Warning: Small Spoiler Alert

Deep announced he was going to watch Dhoom 3 on Christmas night.
In Hindi.
In Pondicherry.
Yep! In a city, where very few locals understand Hindi.

The next day he affirmed that the cinema hall was houseful and packed with North Indians who apparently have a sizable presence in Pondy which is why slots are reserved for certain Hindi films.

On his recommendation, I set out to catch the film only to find that the matinee show was dubbed in Tamil which I don't understand. I watched as locals thronged the ticket counter, asking for tickets to 'Tttoom 3'.
How would they react to the visuals and sensibilities of a Bollywood production?

My friend Bagalavan, an industry insider explained earlier, 'Tamil audiences come for the brand name 'Dhoom' and not necessarily for the power cast. Chennai Express released here in Hindi and was not dubbed in Tamil. Even My Name is Khan, Ek Tha Tiger and Three Idiots were released in Hindi but Tamil movie goers still went to watch them either for time pass or to learn Hindi. Me and my friends go to watch the differences in cinematic techniques.'

So anyway, Dhoom 3 started.

I remembered Baglu's words, 'In Tamil films, you won't be able to hear the dialogues spoken when the actor makes his first appearance on screen.'

Would hell break lose when Aamir came on?

His introductory scene pretty predictable --  direct transition from child (awakening from a nightmare) to  adult. Muscles rippled in the dead blue of the night. But my co-onlookers were stone faced..

Next was Abhishek Bachchan's theatrical entry in a ricshaw, literally exploding onto the screen through a pile of bricks.

Again, a dull silence..

Maybe a small moan for funny man Uday Chopra?
Nada encore!

Wait! All's not lost! Love was the universal binder of things.. So would the kiss between Aamir and Katrina provoke a reaction? Any reaction? A flying chappal, gasps of 'Chhhooo'?

But this is not to say that they were totally unmoved by the film.

There was this one (and only) time when two-fingered whistles pierced the air -- yep, you guessed right.
This was when Samar (Aamir) accepted the inspector's (Abhishek) handshake with a goofy shyness, only to suddenly morph into the creepy twin Sahil (also Aamir in a double role).

Pure evil that deserves applause!

Because this is where you come to realize time and again why Aamir is the undisputed  King of the Khans. While other actors slip into their character's skins --- Aamir drags you down with him into the spine-chilling recesses of his dark grey personnages!

Analysts say that Dhoom 3 is having a good run down south.

It will take a while for Tamil audiences to warm up to the Badshaahs of Bollywood but when that happens, hopefully the bridge between North and South India would have shrunk.

If there's any one who can achieve this gargantuan task, it's Aamir!

Note: Reactions could have differed if I watched the film on a weekend night to a packed house!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Capturing Pondicherry From a Boat

The Pondicherry Skyline

After you have read this blog, and if you are in Pondicherry, do yourself a favor and head down to the Pondicherry Museum  near Bharti Park, for a rare glimpse of a magnificent painting just in front of the ticket desk. You do not even have to enter the museum. Painted several centuries ago, this work of art reflects the city's skyline as seen from the sea. This is what provoked me to do the same. At the end of the blog is a video of all the footage we managed.

Before you set about on a similar expedition on a fishing boat, know that:

1. Even on a sunny day, the sea is deceptively and extremely turbulent when you are in a small wooden boat. Do not consume a heavy meal before the trip. Avoid soft drinks and drink only water. Suck on a sour lime when you start to feel sick. Taking an Avomine tablet for motion sickness might not work especially if it knocks you out.

2. The ocean spray will get into your camera lens so make sure you have a filter on. Salt water and sand can damage lenses beyond repair; often the damage is not visible to the naked eye. A plastic cover wrapped around the camera body is a good idea.

Unavoidable Spray

3. Try sitting in the center of the boat for steady pics. Remember that the boat rocks even when the anchor is let down. Chances are you will have crooked horizons on most of your pics.

Example of a Crooked Horizon 

4. Sit at the tip of the boat only if you are absolutely certain of your balance and a good swimmer! At times, you feel like a 50 foot wave is steadily building up with the sole aim of gobbling you up. Keep calm and say 'Seriously, what is this?'

5. Try and set out early in the morning for soft light. Even if I would have preferred twilight or night shots of the city from the sea, I wasn't sure if this was a great idea, with a wooden boat.

6.Set you camera on Burst Mode. This way, even if your head, body and/or boat is tilted at 45 degrees, you will manage to sneak in a few shots with perfect horizons from time to time.

7. Stand only if the anchor is dropped and if you are in the center of the boat. Although the shots could be more interesting, never ignore your boatman's warnings. When he asks you to sit, you do exactly that with no questions asked!

Your Boss for the Day

8. Wait until the wave breaks for a more dramatic picture, full of movement and life.

The Wave has Broken

9. From the sea, the land takes on a life of its own. Monsieur Dupleix's curly locks appear to fly in the sea breeze, and everything is somewhat surreal, animated and exaggerated. Or maybe it's just me.

10. And finally, while embarking and disembarking the boat, watch your balance and take care not to step onto the 'shore' which is a hotbed of glass splinters, preservatifs and other yucky stuff you don't want getting your feet into.

Enjoy the moment! And don't forget the painting in the museum! Until then. here is a video of Pondicherry's  historic skyline -- replete with piers, statues, lighthouses and Love.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Mission Street's Twillight Wonder - IC Cathedral

At the risk of sounding trivial, it must be said that Pondy has 3 main 'touristy' churches:

-Sacred Heart
-Pink Church (Notre Dame des Anges)
-IC Cathedral Mission Street. (Immaculate Conception)

The last loses out to the other two in terms of fans, because everybody's in love with the Gothic spires of Sacred Heart Church (which has Basilica status by the way) ..  Pink Church is a hot favorite owing to it's hot pink color, beach side location and nice stained glass ..

But to me and my own, Mission Street's I.C church towers above the others ..And this can't be attributed to any stunning architectural elements or color schemes or romantic historical stories..None of that

Maybe it's the presence of the mysterious Falling Angel

These are pics from July 23rd after the sunset (I never saw).

Small Video 

With Golden Jesus in the Foreground

I can see Rafael (Angel)  --- inside the Cupola


Close View

Mission Street Overviews and the Sky

The Lifesize Pieta to the Right of the Church

The Grotto of the Faithful


Blue White . and Gold .


Closeup of the Face of Mary on the Main Building

Entrance from Mission Street
This is It ..

Alone at the Top